Rebirthing: For Emotional Healing And Breastfeeding Reintroduction

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A few days ago I heard about something I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of before: Rebirthing. @mamapeardesigns was asking questions about it on twitter, and I was immediately intrigued, so I started reading more about it. There isn’t a huge amount of information, sadly, and I’d love to know if anyone has experience of it, but I thought I’d share what I found anyway, in the hope that it might help someone. (Please note that Rebirthing is a name applied to a form of breathing yoga and also to the questionable practice of wrapping a person in a blanket to create a womb like experience and requiring them to fight their way out  – otherwise known as Attachment Therapy. This is neither of those techniques)

What is rebirthing?

Rebirthing is when a mother and baby get in a warm bath, and either the mother or a support person put the baby in the water on their back (keeping ears out the water) to sort of float in the water in a womb like experience. The mother should talk to the baby, stroke the baby and so on, and when both are relaxed, place baby on mum’s tummy, in the water. It may take a while, especially if the baby hasn’t breastfed before, but the baby may begin to work his way up to the breast, search it out, and begin to suckle.

This is known as the ‘breast crawl’ which normally occurs naturally in unmedicated births.

Why rebirthing?

There seem to be two major reasons to practice rebirthing  – emotional healing and bonding and breastfeeding/latch problems.

In a really in-depth and excellent article called Emotional Recovery from A Cesarean, the author, Kmom, talking about preparing for a subsequent birth after a traumatic birth experience suggests a mother can “mentally ‘rebirth’ your prior child the way you would have wanted to. This puts some closure on that birth, and helps finish that chapter in your life so that you are more ready to move on to a new one.”

Marie Davis, lactation consultant and midwife who has helped clients with rebirthing, writes, “I have also found this technique useful for some mothers. Sometimes, like following a Cesarean Section, a difficult labor and delivery and/or prolonged separation of mother and baby, I see women in a kind of “mourning” over the “loss” of the birthing experience. The rebirthing technique appears to help heal those emotional wounds.”

The second reason people attempt rebirthing is to stimulate breastfeeding, and help a baby that has previously had trouble latching on or simply refused the breast.

Marie Davis writes on this too, saying, “It works for moms after struggling for days or weeks to get their babies to latch on, (many [of] these women exclusively pump for weeks or months), and babies who have been bottle-fed as preemies in the nursery. Mom needs to become an observer. The baby knows what to do; something has interfered with the natural processes.”

One of the very few rebirth experiences I could find online was by Doula Momma, and I strongly recommend that you read her moving story. She sums up with the following, “I would recommend rebirth to anyone who has birth trauma. As soon as you get home from the hospital, get in the water. Get skin to skin. Recreate what you wanted for you and for your baby. Even if the baby didn’t have a birth trauma or injury of any kind, but you did, do it. If your milk is taking a while to come in, do it. It will help your body to relax and produce the hormones necessary for milk production. I truly believe in this process and it’s healing powers and hope that more moms can learn about the benefits of rebirth after birth trauma.”

I particularly liked how she described the experience, saying “His entire body went limp. We were completely amazed at this point. We had successfully recreated the womb and he remembered it! This was the most relaxed this baby had been since he was born.”

I think the really exciting thing about this as far as breastfeeding is concerned, is that we sometimes think we’ve missed the ‘window’ for breastfeeding and that there’s no going back, but it sounds like there might well be. It might not always work, and it might take a while, but if a mother really wants to establish that relationship, or mourns the loss of it, rebirthing, or “co-bathing” as it was originally known, certainly seems worth a try.

Safely rebirthing guidelines

The process for rebirthing is described on Lactationconsultant.info as follows:

  • Done in a warm bathtub.
  • Fill the tub with warm (not hot) water. The bath water should be about body temperature, WARM not tepid, to avoid chilling, so both mother and baby are comfortable.
  • Have the mother undress and enter the tub.
  • The support person then places the naked baby in the water on his back (Don’t worry about the cord. In Australian hospitals at day 1 and 2 babies are fully bathed with no infection problems).
  • The baby should be well supported and gently submerged up to his shoulders, (keep the ears out of the water). Allow the infant to float, gently in the water for about a minute.
  • Place baby nude on the mother’s belly.
  • Bring water from the tub onto baby’s back every few minutes to keep him warm.
  • Let the baby crawl his way up to mother’s breast.
  • Before exiting the tub, the baby should be handed to the support person. The mother should not attempt standing and trying to exit the tub with the baby in her arms.

Davis adds two more points that I think are really important:

  • The nurse/support person should step back and watch the process, simply allow it to happen. Do not interfere unless the infant is in danger of falling, has respiratory problems, etc.
  • If done in the hospital during the neonatal period, especially if mother has been medicated or is very sleepy, it is extremely important that someone is assigned to monitor the baby at all times.

It seems such a simple procedure, but if it can aid bonding, establish a breastfeeding relationship or help mother and baby heal from a traumatic experience, I think it’s wonderful.

I would love to know if anyone else has experience with this, or something similar? What do you think? Is it just psycho-bable? And does it matter if it is, but is helping women?

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19 thoughts on “Rebirthing: For Emotional Healing And Breastfeeding Reintroduction

  1. It has been many years since this article you wrote I see. I had a rebirth for my homebirth transfer and it was amazing. It is more healing then I first thought and I am very open minded about doing things in ceremony. I am open to share my experiences if anyone is interested? I am writing an article about it b/c it is true many mothers want to know more about this. Thanks!

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  2. Pingback: Rebirthing | Figuring Out an Eco, Practical and Happy Babyhood
  3. Pingback: Any advice
  4. Dawn

    You people are wierd! Yes I said it. You are all wierd!

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    Jennifer W. Reply:

    Wired? Or weird? What is weird about wanting a do-over in the event of a birth that may not have gone to plan? I love reconnecting with my children in the tub, even with my homebirths I did this on instinct about a week in when they showed signs of sensory overload from their new environment.

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    Laila Sabet Reply:

    I fail to see how this is weird.

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  5. Angela

    I know that I am writing a long time after this article was published – but it is a rare article on ‘rebirthing’ indeed lol… I only heard about this the other day when I was reading about relactating (a loooong story lol) and I find this an amazing concept. All of my births were c-sections – first was an ‘emergency’ because I ‘failed to progress’ during labour, I dialated only one centimetre in eight hours of labour. I found out later that the ‘emergency’ was not because of my sons health condition as I got hold of the CTG read-out and my son had not one indication of being in distress etc, so I put it down to an emergency of there being no room for other labouring women that were ‘doing it right’ by the hospitals policy. My second c-section was a repeat elective as it was only a year since my first baby that I was due to give birth again. My third c-section was because of the first two, and a back injury, and my fourth c-section was only three and a half weeks ago due to the other three, and also my injury flared up so badly that I could no longer even roll over and was in hospital. My last child’s birth was the most traumatic – he needed rescuscitation after a brief cry, was taken away to Special Care, my spinal aaesthesia wore off (again), and my little baby had withdrawals from the chronic pain medications I had to take. I did not have any decent time with him until almost a week after he was born as no one could wheel me down in my bed and there was ‘no room’ for me to lay in my bed in Special Care to spend time with my son. They could only bring him to my room on half hour stints, and would announce at the end of that half hour that they ‘had to go now’. It was horrible when a nurse tells you that your ‘visit’ with your newborn unwell baby is ‘over’ for the next four hours or MORE for days on end, and then they tell me that if I want more than half an hour a couple of times a day I would need to get myself well enough to get into a wheel chair. I was discharged after a week and a half post-birth, and had to leave my baby in the Special Care nursery in a hospital that is almost an hour from my house – and we do not have a car and there is no public transport that I can access with a walking frame and back injury to get to him every day. In the week or so after leaving him there, I saw him only five times and I was so blessed to have those five times (friends who drove for almost an hour to get to my house in a country town, forty minutes to the hospital, then back again for them, and two of those visits were courtesy of a community care service). I have IGT/hypoplasic breasts so I have also never been successful in breastfeeding any of my babies.

    There is much more, but to cut an extremely long story short, I had PND and bonding issues with all of my babies, and was separated from my third baby for more than a month when I was in hospital and then physical rehabilitation when he was still an infant. To know that there is a way to help recreate our birth experience to a more gentle and low-stress start is amazing and I wish there was so much more I could read about it before I try it very soon with Jonathan (our three week old). I only wish I had known about this with my first baby, and if you can get more information out there about this, then hopefully many more women will be able to also find a modicum of healing in their ‘rebirthing’ experience once they know it exists.

    Many thanks, and many blessings,
    Angela

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    Rosanna Reply:

    Thank you for sharing your rebirthing journey.. how wonderful!!

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  6. Charlotte

    I read about rebirthing in 2009 when my daughter who was about 6 months old decided she did not want to breastfeed, for no apparent reason at all. I was devastated. Every time I attempted to feed her she would turn head head away and I just could not understand why. I called the La Leche who advised to dream feed her and along with this I shared a bath with my daughter to attempt the rebirthing experience. At the time my daughter was having swimming lessons (those where they swim underwater) so when we were in the bath, I held her inbetween my legs and gently put her under the water and brought her back up very gently to rest her on my chest. It was lovely and I firmly believe this helped my daughter to re-establish breastfeeding. At the time this happened I had my first period since the birth and it was not until later that I read that when menstruating it can affect the taste of your milk, which could have been why my daughter did not feed from me for almost 4 days. Thankfully we went on to feed for another 4 months and I still miss feeding her. I am a total fan of rebirthing.

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  7. Hearing that now makes me wonder if something like that could of helped me establish breastfeeding back when I exhusted myself and my body trying to get Oli to breastfeed!
    Emma’s last blog post ..Should You Think Twice Before Taking Your Baby To A Firework Display This Year

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Emma, Ems, I guess the important thing is to bare it in mind should you need it ‘next time’, or if you know others that find themselves in the situation to share it with them. The hope is that yes, this would have helped, but there’s nothing we can do about it now, so please don’t let it make you feel bad, okay? This is really how we all live and learn. I just think it’s awesome and wanted to share it with everyone as soon as I heard about it too!

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  8. Holly Lynne

    After I had jack we partially did this in the big bath in hospital, but the midwife didn’t call it rebirthing, she was trying to help us get started with breastfeeding. Jack didn’t breast crawl, I think he was still too sleepy.

    When we got …home and the true mourning of my lost birth experience set in someone online suggested it as a way of healing emotionally, she did call it rebirthing. Although very intrigued I never found the strength to do it, I always found the idea too upsetting. Now it seems like too much time has passed and I would feel a bit self conscious doing it with my toddler lol!

    But I always recommend it to others, I believe it can be a very powerful healing method. Thank you for writing so sensitively about it xx

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Holly Lynne, Thanks Holly for sharing your thoughts here. It wonderful hearing a real life experience of the bath helping with breastfeeding, and it’s equally good to know that it might actually just be too raw for some.

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  9. Tears running down my face. What a beautiful, precious story. She is such an inspiration, what a gorgeous website!

    I’m extremely interested in Rebirth now, too. It makes perfect sense to me. What a fantastic idea!
    Rebekah C’s last blog post ..Morgan Goes to the Emergency Room and Momma Feels Like an Idiot

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Rebekah C, Isn’t it just! I am really blown away by the simplicity of it, yet it just makes such perfect sense when I stop to think about it

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  10. Wow this is so interesting – beautiful story, and it totally makes sense to me that this would “work” and be a healing experience for mum and baby. Confirms my instinct that the breast crawl isn’t a once-and-once-only opportunity and that healing damaged breastfeeding relationships often requires some kind of acceptance and healing of birth trauma. Thankyou for sharing!

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Sarah, You are so right. I wonder how connected the breast crawl and that ‘one hour’ window for rooting instinct are. Or perhaps this is rooting kicking in again, facilitated by breast crawl. It’s awesome. I’d love to know more. And yes, I think you are so right about an acceptance being needed. It’s like that with any trauma though, isn’t it, so why should birth trauma be any different?

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